October 2008 Archives

Midcentury Socks

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It's been a whirl of activity over here at Family Trunk Headquarters, but as October, and hence Socktoberfest, is HOLY CRAP almost over, I thought I'd show off these little beauties while they're still germane.

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Along with what seems like every other American out there, I am deep in a phase of infatuation with Midcentury design at the moment, so David and I decided to have a little period fun with the photoshoot. The French cuffs on my shirt are a tad distracting, as are the bokeh-infused videocassette tapes visible in some of the shots, but other than that I think these turned out quite well. To establish the proper mood, Time Out was on the record player throughout, and our iPods and laptops were hidden in the other room.

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The stitch pattern and general idea of these socks was suggested by Kate Gagnon's Ode to Eames pattern, but the final products are some of the more heavily modified objects I've made. I more or less stole Kate's stitch pattern and added:

  • A different toe-up cast-on (Magic Toe-Up rather than provisional);
  • a different number of cast-on stitches (72 instead of 64, as I like a firm gauge);
  • the stitch pattern continuing all the way around the foot, rather than becoming stripes on the sole;
  • a different heel, to accommodate the unbroken all-over stitch pattern on the foot and leg (I used Eunny Jang's short-row heel from her Entrelac Socks pattern, which reliably fits great whenever I insert it into a new context);
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  • an increase in needle size about three-quarters of the way up the legs, to give me some wiggle room in the calf department;
  • a slightly different ribbing: p2, k2tbl, which I thought played well into the 1950's milieu.
Whew! Lots of mods; pretty socks.
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One aspect of the original pattern I did keep, and which was new to me, was the round toe construction. In the final toe-related analysis, I'm a bit in two minds about it. It's very roomy, and I do like a round shape at the end of shoes and socks. On the other hand, the increases don't look as neat and tidy as a typical, flatter toe, which is a minus in my book. In any case, it's always fun to try a little something new.

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The yarn, unsurprisingly given my other sock projects, is Sundara Sock Yarn, in the Arabian Nights and Spruce over Sage colorways. I had a ton of yarn left over, and if I weren't in the slow process of converting my sock leftovers to blanket squares (on which more later), I might have pressed on and found a way to make these into knee highs. As it is, they're very soft and warm trouser socks quite suitable for late autumn and early winter, and I'm pleased with them.

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Stay tuned for lots of updates as soon as possible: finished sewing projects, something for Mr. Bingley, the start of a new Family Trunk Project pattern, and (hopefully!), the finish of another.

Teaser Tutorial

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I promise that the Warren Johnson pattern and essay will be done very soon. In the meantime, I hope you'll take a gander at this little video we put together, detailing the hybrid colorwork technique I used to get the plaid effect on the jacket. I'm hopeful that the video will be a useful tool for people making the jacket itself, and I'm also curious about other uses y'all creative knitters might find for the technique!

David really deserves props on this one: he did all the filming, and ALL the editing, which, let me just say, was a lot. The end result is so much prettier and more polished (and, I think, clearer) than I would have been able to achieve on my own. He even dealt graciously with my bouts of crankiness during filming ("Will I have to do voice-over? I don't understand how this will work. Should I even be talking right now if we're just going to record over it?" etc.). David does such awesome work on the Family Trunk Project, and I feel like his contributions are often overshadowed by my glitzier ones. So everyone: three cheers for David! Hip hip huzzah!

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(A higher-quality video is coming in due course, once we iron out a few wrinkles). Enjoy! And be sure to keep watching after the copyright notice for a little taste of Mr. Bingley's attitude toward the fiber arts.

A sartorial epic

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Lately, I've been feeling a bit distracted, a little thin-spread. So, according to my usual coping mechanism when I'm feeling that way, I've been tying up some loose ends. On Sunday I finished my book; yesterday I finished a pair of socks (currently blocking); and Monday I finished this:

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My guess is that few Family Trunk Project readers have followed the saga of this jacket from the beginning. It starts way back here, in the 300-square-foot apartment that David and I used to share, and was more recently continued here, but now it's finally done...sort of.

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The "sort of" is because this is the top half of a suit (Vogue 2870, for those playing along at home), and the skirt is still far from done. It feels great to have the jacket complete at last, though, after working on it sporadically for almost two years!

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In retrospect, doesn't it always seem like the hangups that cause projects to sit on the shelf for months turn out to be really silly and quick to fix? At least in comparison to your expectations? That's definitely how the last finishing step of this jacket was for me. I remembered the bottom edge of the lining as fitting very poorly into the shell; I remembered hours of pinning and re-pinning, all ending in frustration. Coming back to it, I can't understand my confusion. It says right in the directions, after all, "Lining will form a pleat at bottom edge for wearing ease," and once I let it do that, everything was smooth sailing. Well, smooth sailing plus lots and lots of slip-stitching. And then I had a silk-lined jacket!

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Which, as you can see, is very exciting to me.

There are plenty of details to love here; I adore the cute trimmed pockets (also lined!), and the row of buttons along the sleeve cuffs, not to mention the curved lines of the bottom fronts:

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The unusual v-shape of buttons made me a tad nervous. David and I had to work hard to find buttons that toned down the military leanings of the jacket; just imagine it with brass buttons and you'll see what I mean. But I think these swirly leather ones avert that danger pretty well. (Not that there's anything wrong with military-inspired civilian dress; it's just not my personal cup of tea.)

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It's lovely to wear - I'm lucky that I didn't undergo any radical shape-shifting in the two-year interval between my alterations to the pattern two years ago, and the jacket's completion yesterday. And really, it's that luscious silk lining again. It makes me want to wear the jacket with shirtsleeves everywhere I go! Look how happy I am:

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Hopefully this streak of loose-end-tying will continue, and apply itself to things like, oh, completion of the Warren Johnson essay (all I have left on this pattern!), and some tricky charting I've been putting off. Until then, at least I'm outfitted to procrastinate in style.

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Dr. Jones, I presume?

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I just got the go-ahead to share a new project with you, which, perhaps appropriately, was under construction during the Cold of Doom:

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These socks were commissioned (I love the sound of that) by Kate over at Knit it Up! for her sock club, Sock Yarn Cinema. They're an homage to everyone's favorite heartthrob-professor-turned-rogue-archaeologist, Indiana Jones, and I'm quite pleased with how they turned out.

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The process on these was super-fun. Kate had already developed the custom-dyed "Dr. Jones" colorway, and we talked about concepts over email before she overnighted me the yarn. The base is pretty different than the sock yarns I usually use, but it knit up into a lovely, velvety fabric that is cozy but still lightweight.

I knew I wanted to channel Indy's tweedy professorial side with some kind of simple slip-stitch pattern, and the one I lighted on is very simple indeed: a de-textured and lightly modified version of a more rustic tweed from Barbara Walker. Although the finished product looks sophisticated, the yarn does much of the work. The knitter works from both ends of the center-pull ball, knitting with only one color at a time in an easy-to-memorize slip-one-knit-one pattern. I can't claim that I foresaw the exact fade pattern of the colors, but I'm pleased that they ended up mirroring the gradient of the classic Indiana Jones title logo:

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I found it so enjoyable to put this project together! If anyone out there is looking to commission other knitting patterns based on popular fictional characters, especially ones from the 1930's and 40's, I'm your girl. In fact, this whole experience has got me thinking about large-scale projects for after the Family Trunk Project is complete, and a knitting-pattern survey of my favorite novel and film characters would be an amazingly fun idea.

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The pattern has been distributed with the Sock Yarn Cinema's October mailing. It's not available elsewhere just yet, but keep your eyes peeled; I'll let you know when you can snatch it up. And a big thanks to Kate for getting the ball rolling!

Cold destroyed, contest won

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Well! It was a long and arduous path, but I've finally (more or less) recovered from my awful cold. I spent the last week of it in rural New Hampshire, where the rare sun breaks revealed bright swathes of beauty, all sparkling with raindrops. We communed with David's family, drank hot tea, huddled against huge thunderstorms, and even got out for the occasional walk. I know the fiber-y types out there will enjoy this hilarious sheep we encountered:

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David's father mentioned, and I heartily agree, that this sheep looks like the kind of animal one imagines while reading Haruki Murakami's absurdist noir novel A Wild Sheep Chase. Is it a little man in a sheep suit? Or a sheep that wants to nestle parasitically in a person's psyche? Whatever it is, it's extremely funny, and had a strand of grass stuck in its mouth when I snapped this picture. I'm pretty sure it's a milk sheep rather than a wool sheep, because it was right next to the surpassingly delicious Sandwich Creamery, whose website I am amazed to discover. If you ever have a chance to visit this place, tucked down an unimproved road in the New Hampshire countryside, I beg that you do so. The ice cream! The cheese!

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Yes. Yes I will.

But this isn't what you guys really want to hear about! You want to hear about knitting, but I don't have any to show you quite yet. Barring knitting, you probably want to hear about this little hooligan.

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Thank you so much for all of your hilarious stories explaining Mr. Bingley's strange behavior. It really brightened David and my convalescence to watch them arrive in our inbox. I was dreading having to decide amongst them, actually, because they all made us laugh out loud, but Mr. Bingley himself solved our problem for us. I was reading the stories out loud, and it turns out that one of them actually contains another word to add to the list! What are the odds? Apparently, in addition to "gross," "Andre the Giant," "Germans," "concentrate," and "wizards," the term "Paris" also causes our dog to bark, lick, run around in circles and otherwise amuse us. So thanks, Constance, for bringing that to our attention! I'll be emailing you to see where I should send your new yarn.

Actual knitting content is coming soon, y'all!

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